I read this article today, and didn’t like it one bit.
“And Lead Us Not” (pp. 28-30) in Harper’s Magazine (December 2007)
[“By David Lewis and Philip Kitcher, from “Divine Evil” in Philosophers Without Gods, published in August by Oxford University Press. Lewis, a professor of philosophy at Princeton, was the author of several books, including Counterfactuals and On the Plurality of Worlds. The essay is based on an outline he wrote before his death in 2001. Kitcher is a professor of philosophy at Columbia.”]
Standard versions of the Argument from Evil concern the evils God fails to prevent: the pain and suffering of human beings and the sins people commit. The most ambitious versions of the argument claim that the existence of evil is logically incompatible with the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, and completely benevolent deity. In my view, this version succeeds conclusively. But I think the usual philosophical discussions of the problem of evil are a sideshow. What interests me here is a simpler argument, one that has been strangely neglected.
We might start instead from the evils God himself perpetrates. In duration and intensity, these dwarf the kinds of suffering and sin to which the standard versions allude. For God has prescribed torment for insubordination. The punishment is to go on forever, and the agonies to be endured by the damned intensify, in unimaginable ways, the sufferings we undergo in our earthly lives. In both dimensions, time and intensity, the torment is infinitely worse than all the suffering and sin that will have occurred during the history of life in the universe. What God does is thus infinitely worse than what the worst of tyrants have done.
Before we continue, do LDS friends believe this logic? First, I believe that the Bible teaches the existence of evil and that God is powerful, knowing, and loving. Do I understand it all? No, but I trust the God who both knew all about the evil that engulfed his celestial and terrestrial creation and the Son’s body that would be sacrificed on account of the evil. Here are several reasons Jesus died: 1) “that he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;” 2) that he might “deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” 3) and that he might “make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (a propitiation – a sacrifice to appease the Father who hates moral evil and is radically opposed). Truly, no evil tyrant has voluntarily died for his enemies that they might live as revealed by the incomprehensible act of love displayed by this eternal Ruler.
Thinking of heart issues, God created an eternal hell for the fallen demons. And yet among humans, there is the despicably infinite crime committed by those who blatantly reject an eternal atonement. But I ask you—what greater crime is this? Blaspheming the Spirit and trodding upon the gospel work of the Son, who is the very glory of the Father? It is unforgivable, inconceivable. (But I don’t take the holier-than-thou-higher-ground for I was once among the worst, wallowing in self-righteousness. I desperately needed the Father to draw me in my stupid foolishness to His Son.)
People have got to hear. They must believe. It is dying to the self-grasping logic of our own sinful reasoning and embracing divine logic of the biblical gospel offered with the utmost perfect love.
Yes, I don’t accept these authors in their logic. But they go on, accusingly.
Many Christians appear to be good people, worthy of the admiration of those of us who are non-Christians. From now one let us suppose, for simplicity’s sake, that these Christians accept a God who inflicts infinite torment on those who do not accept Him. Appearances notwithstanding, are those who worship the perpetrator of divine evil themselves evil? . . .
You must read the full excerpt of this analysis in Harper’s Magazine. Where does one’s logic stop in the progression? I fast forward to the last paragraph.
. . . If admiration transmits evil, then eventually almost every living person will be infected. The more we are prepared to be tolerant in religious matters, the more the contagion will spread. The only ones to escape will be the committed misanthropes. Leaving aside those who find nothing admirable in humanity, everyone will be tainted with divine evil.
May the gospel (the living, biblical reasoning culminating in Christ, sent to us out of heaven) brilliantly break forth to those trapped in this logic. And someday when I am in heaven, rejoicing with ancient Job before the Lamb, I will understand more what I simply trust now.